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July 29, 2005

Notes on Canada’s Year of the Veteran

When Canada’s Minister of Veterans’ Affairs announced 2005 as The Year of the Veteran he said “To-day we ask a new generation of Canadians to surrender their time, volunteer their hearts, and take the year to fully remember a century of sacrifice”.  Sixty years after WWII and long after many veterans are gone many initiatives are recognizing our veterans.  The new War Museum, a Veterans’ Charter and dozens of events large and small are taking place.  Native veterans, Korean War veterans and Women veterans have been specifically recognized along with all of the other veterans. 

The New War Museum 

An outstanding new War Museum was opened on D-Day on the Lebreton Flats just west of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.  I had the opportunity to visit the site recently and it certainly is a very appropriate memorial in terms of size and content. It is an architectural masterpiece with huge spaces, beautiful light and very professional displays of every war Canada has been involved in to the present day.  There is an excellent research centre, a boutique, an art gallery, theatre, etc.  The store has a vast array of books and other memorabilia including the John Macfie book on the Algonquin Regiment.  They did not have copies of Warpath, the story of the Algonquin Regiment, or the remarkable new novel about 2 native snipers in WWI (Three Day Road) and I drew this to their attention.  For detailed information on the museum see www.warmuseum.ca or phone 1-800-555-5621 for a brochure. 

The new Canadian War Museum, Ottawa (submitted photo)

If you can’t get to the new museum there are excellent resources on line – log on to Veterans’ Affairs Canada which lists dozens of links, or google Canadian Year of the Veteran. 

Women Veterans 

The Veterans Affairs website profiles a native nurse Edith Monture from the Six Nations Reserve.  Much like Edith Parkin who was recently and belatedly recognized in Chisholm Township, Monture trained in the U.S. and went to Base Hospital 23 in France along with several other U.S. trained Canadian nurses.  There were no Canadian military nurses. 

Chisholm’s Edith Parkin was at Base Hospital 25.  During her service she picked up a streptococcus infection that debilitated her for years.  She had a long career as a nurse in the U.S. after the war and returned to Chisholm on retirement.  The family could not afford a headstone when she died in 1955. 

As an appropriate part of the Year of the Veteran, Edith Parkin received a headstone at Chisholm Boxwell Cemetery on July 23.  The lengthy process of establishing the Parkin Memorial was led by former Chisholm Councillor Linda Thompson, who is active in the Legion and the veterans’ Memory Project.  M.P. Anthony Rota, who is active in Veterans’ Affairs federally, and many others were supportive of the project.  Various family, friends, politicians and Canadian and U.S. military personnel attended the event.  Congratulations to all concerned who went the extra mile on this important Year of the Veteran Project. 

Women in WWII 

Unlike WWI the second world war had many Canadian women with 50,000 in the Armed Services with 4,500 as Nursing Sisters.  One example from North Bay that I discovered recently was the service of Isabel (McDonald) Mauro, wife of historian Rudy Mauro. 

Linda Thompson checks out the Edith Parkin headstone in the Boxwell Cemetery, Chisholm Township, prior to the unveiling.  Doug Mackey Photo.

Isabel served for a couple of years as a WREN working as a communications officer intercepting Japanese code for translation to anticipate attacks.  The whole operation was documented a few years ago and many of the participants attended a reunion. 

Isabel recently donated some of her war material to the Military Communications & Electronics Museum in Kingston.  I had the pleasure of seeing her fine display there recently while visiting this fascinating museum. 

The Isabel (McDonald) Mauro display at the Military Communications & Electronics Museum, Kingston. Doug Mackey Photo

Native Snipers 

Another group being recognized for their work as soldiers is native men who volunteered in disproportionate numbers to their population.  The Veterans’ Affairs Canada website has an article on Native soldiers indicating that they performed remarkably well and received over 50 medals.  There is also a story about metis “Sharpshooter: Henry Louis Norwest” who had a sniping record of 178 fatal shots before he died in action.  Native Algonquin Regiment soldier Francis Pegahmagabow from Parry Sound Island who recently had a book written about him shot over 300 of the enemy.  Pegahmagabow was the inspiration for the book Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden about 2 native snipers in WWI.  It is doing remarkably well.  The author was recently at Gulliver’s Books in North Bay signing copies for his many fans. 

Watch your local newspaper or check the websites indicated for more Year of the Veteran events.

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